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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
SOME PEOPLE begin to slow down when they hit 50, but billionaire international businessman and philanthropist Lev Leviev seems to have developed a fresh rush of adrenalin since celebrating his the milestone birthday last July. Since then, the chairman of the board of Africa Israel Investments has been thriving and making headline news on an almost daily basis with reports of his acquisitions in Israel and abroad, his extraordinarily successful initial public offering in London of shares in AFI Real Estate Development, the Africa Israel subsidiary that operates in Russia and is currently involved in 21 residential, shopping mall and office projects mainly in and around Moscow, his phenomenal success on the TASE and his steering of Africa Israel's worth to a $7 billion target well over half a year ahead of time.
Africa Israel has denied reports that it plans to issue shares in the US in the first half of 2008, but if that does come about, no one is going to be surprised. Leviev in his 50s appears to be unstoppable, and with nine offspring, some of whom are already working in executive positions in his varied business interests, he is almost destined to be a latter-day Rothschild, with an empire spanning several continents. In fact, that's already happening with Africa Israel subsidiaries operating in many countries. In the past year, Leviev has leapfrogged over Haim Saban, Sammy Ofer, Shari Arison and Stef Wertheimer to reportedly become the richest man in Israel. It should not be forgotten that parallel to his many and varied Africa Israel activities, which include building whole neighborhoods that are cities within cities, shopping malls, the trans-Israel highway, BOT projects, tourism, telecommunications and media, energy, fashion and beachwear, steel, ceramics and then some, Leviev is also among the more prominent figures in the global diamond industry. The diamond company that bears his name is the largest cutter and polisher of diamonds in the world. The company also has one of the largest and finest collections of rare and important diamonds. It is in his capacity as a kingpin in the diamond trade and head of the Leviev Group that Leviev will be among the speakers this week at the fifth annual meeting of the World Diamond Council to be held over a two-day period in Jerusalem. The WDC, created in 2000 by the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, aims to develop, implement and oversee a tracking system for the import and export of rough diamonds to prevent the exploitation of diamonds for illicit purposes.
DEFENSE MINISTER Amir Peretz joined Automotive Equipment & Vehicles CEO Tzvi Neta in celebrating the 40th anniversary of Automotive Industries Nazareth, which is owned by AEV. Automotive Industries, which was founded by Jacob Bucksbaum, specializes in military vehicles and equipment and is a major supplier to the IDF. Its first command car came off the assembly line in 1967. Since then, said Neta, the company has produced more than 80,000 military vehicles and this year plans to release 600 jeeps.
THE RECENT call by some British academics for a boycott of Israel, has not found much of an echo. In fact, in some cases the opposite is true. Due to arrive in Israel this week is Cyril Paskin, chairman of the Phillip Green Memorial Trust, which for the past 20 years has been granting financial support to numerous British and international organizations and institutions whose aim is to improve the quality of life for children suffering acute physical and mental illnesses. This UK charitable Trust is not a Jewish organization. After consulting with the Prime Minister's Office in Israel, the Trust was introduced to Aleh, the organization that cares for severely disabled children from all over the country. The upshot is that the Trust is devoting its 2007 fund-raising campaign to Aleh, and within the framework of the campaign will host a gala dinner at the end of November with the participation of 1400 people. Proceeds from the dinner will be invested in the construction of an essential need by Aleh Jerusalem - a well equipped hospital department. Although the Trust works primarily for the benefit of children with physical and mental disabilities, it does occasionally take economic disability into account, and for this reason has made a significant donation towards the establishment of a library in the Moreshet Zvulun primary school in Netanya, where 20 percent of the families are immigrants from Ethiopia who lack the financial resources to be able to buy essential books to educate their children. Paskin will attend a dedication ceremony for the library this Friday. British Ambassador Tom Phillips has indicated that he will also be present.
During his visit to Israel, Paskin, who will be a accompanied by a professional British cameraman, will also tour Beit Levenstein, for which the Trust will attempt to raise funds some time in the near future. The cameraman will capture images of all the places Paskin visits, but will focus primarily on Aleh. The documentary of the visit will be screened at the gala dinner in November.
THE MANY friends and acquaintances of Delta Galil Chairman and Israel Prize Laureate Dov Lautman, who last month received a life achievement award, continue to celebrate. On the night of the Israel Prize ceremony, many came from the Coastal Plain to Jerusalem to share the honor with him and then continued back to the Ronit Farm near Shfayim to celebrate long into the night. More recently, friends and colleagues from the Manufacturers Association of Israel, of which Lautman is a former president, got together at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv to let Lautman know how delighted they are for him. Among those who came to do him honor were present and past Governors of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer and David Klein, well-known attorney and former government minister Yaakov Neeman, and leading business people and industrialists such as Dan Propper, Benny Gaon, Amnon Dick, Yaakov Gelber, Michael Strauss and many others. Tonight, Tuesday, Lautman will be feted yet again - this time in Jerusalem. He is one of scores of American and Israeli philanthropists participating in the JDC Board of Directors Meeting in Israel, but since he is on more than just nodding terms with the majority of other philanthropists attending, there's bound to be some reference to the honor bestowed on him on Israel Independence Day. Lautman will be one of the speakers in a panel discussion at the David Citadel Hotel on Motivation, Satisfaction and Barriers.
MAY/JUNE looks to be a positive period for real estate tycoon Alfred Akirov. Aside from the fact that his Moshe Safdie-designed Mamilla Quarter complex in Jerusalem is moving ahead in leaps and bounds, with luxury stores and restaurants due to open at the beginning of June, Akirov has decided to link his name in perpetuity with a new interdisciplinary institute at Tel Aviv University to be inaugurated next week at the annual meeting of the University's Board of Governors. The institute will research the relationship between the business world and the environment. The inauguration will be attended by leading figures from the business community and, not surprisingly, Safdie will be the keynote speaker. In addition, his family and friends will have the opportunity to see Akirov in cap and gown when TAU confers an honorary doctorate on him - also within the framework of the Board of Governors meeting.
POLITICS ASIDE, Israeli representatives in many fields of endeavor continue to bring honor and pride to the country through their achievements in the international arena. Among them is Wendy Eitan of the Israel Postal Company who was elected for the second time to the seven member EMS (Express Mail Service) Board of the Post Operations Council of the Universal Postal Union at its recent meeting in Bern, Switzerland.
HARVARD AND Haifa University business administration, economics and accountancy graduate Esther Eldan has been appointed CEO of Kitan Industries in the Clal Industries Group. She replaces co-CEO Adi Livnat, who after seven years at the helm has decided to step down. Eldan was previously CEO of the 3I group and before that was CEO at Haifa Chemicals.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL is seeking a stronger foothold in the Middle East and has announced that over the next 36 months it will add 16 hotels to those it has in the region, increasing room supply by more than 250% over a five-year period. "Middle East tourism is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. We intend to share in this growth by offering a wide range of hotel choices for luxury, deluxe, upper moderate and extended stay travelers," said Ed Fuller, president and managing director of international lodging for Marriott. Half of the new Middle East hotel openings will be in the United Arab Emirates. Israel, which has two Marriotts, has not been included in the Middle East expansion plan. Quoting the World Travel & Tourism Council, Fuller said the forecast was that tourism will claim about 10% of all Middle East investment each year through 2016.
PEDERSEN & PARTNERS, a leading executive search firm in Central and Eastern Europe has opened an office in Tel-Aviv and has appointed Kimberly Lindy as Country Manager, Israel and head of Pedersen & Partners Professional Advisory Practice. Prior to joining Pedersen & Partners in 2007, Lindy was a managing director and partner at one of Israel's leading legal recruitment firms and before that she served as an executive director, first at Reinhold Cohn & Partners Patent Attorneys and later at Herzog, Fox and Neeman. Lindy has a BA in Political Science from McGill University in Canada and a Master's Degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania. She speaks fluent English and Hebrew. Also joining the new Tel-Aviv office is Jerry Pinkus who, in addition to his responsibilities in Israel, will become part of Pedersen & Partners' regional financial services practice. Pinkus has a wealth of experience in the insurance sector and has held executive appointments in both the UK and Israel for more than 30 years.
OSCAR WINNING actor and director George Clooney, who is the latest in a series of ambassadors for Omega watches, will be featured in advertising campaigns worldwide including Israel. The budget for the international campaign is $25 million of which the Israeli share is NIS 500,000. Although, it usually takes a long time for someone to graduate to an Omega watch, in Clooney's case it happened to be the first watch he ever wore. An uncle gave him the gift of a watch in 1969. It just happened to be an Omega.
THE SHERATON Hotel Tel Aviv has a new general manager. Jean-Louis Ripoche (49), who launched his hospitality career in 1982, was most recently general manager at the Movenpick Hotel and Casino, Malabata, Tangier in Morocco. Prior to that, he worked for Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts in the United Arab Emirates, France, US, Thailand and Indonesia. Married, with three children, Ripoche holds various diplomas from hotel management schools, speaks French and English fluently, and can get along in basic German and in Thai and Indonesian dialects.